Archive | November, 2008

2 + 4 Feet running, or how a podcast saved my life

29 Nov

Back in April 2008, Dan from the 4FeetRunning Podcast started a ten in ten challenge among friends, in order to lose 10 pounds in 10 weeks. At that time I weighed 96 kg (212 pounds) and was motivated by Dan to lose weight as well.

So, Dan from 4FeetRunning, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for putting that idea into my head!

At this moment, I’m weighing 79 kg (174 pounds), which means I have lost 38 pounds in 35 weeks, which is an extended version of 10 pounds in 10 weeks. I expect to weigh 63 kg (139 pounds) by the end of September 2009, in other words, to lose yet another 35 pounds in 44 weeks. This would give me a healthy body mass index (BMI) of 20.8.

Although Dan didn’t succeed in his attempt (he may still do it, though), he motivated me to change my lifestyle. I now eat less, yet healthier, and exercise more (I run 5 or 6 times a week). On the last Sunday of April of this year I had to push myself to run a 10 K distance in 54 minutes and a few seconds. Now I’m able to run the same distance in 44 minutes, with ease.

I have expressed my gratitude a few times to Nick and Dan, by commenting on their blog, and telling other people how wonderful their podcast is. Production quality-wise it is not the greatest podcast on earth, but both Nick and Dan are down to earth, and share their experience with us, the listener. They tell it like it is and don’t pretend. That is how podcasting should be. “Content is king,” as Rob Walch, podcaster of the first hour used to say in his Podcast411 podcast.

That is all.

Beware. Genius at work!

28 Nov

Beware, genius at work

So, if I’m a genius, why is it still so hard to push those pixels?

That is all.

A rose by any name…

28 Nov

Here’s something I made using The Gimp. I saved the intermediary files as Photoshop PSD files, so I could easily go back to an earlier step and use any drawing software that supports PSD to edit the files afterwards.

rose

I started with a blank image (here represented as a black background because of the way how Flickr works, but on the computer screen it was transparent) and drew a single petal on it, copied that layer and rearranged the layer copies…

rose-001rose-003

I changed the orientation of the petals, mirrored horizontally in the back and changed the width of the petals, to give a 3D effect…

rose-003rose-004

I made the petals in the back smaller, to strengthen the 3D effect, and pulled the petals together…

rose-005rose-006

I drew a stem and the sepals, each in their own layers, and added a single leaf…

rose-007rose-008

I copied the leaf, mirrored it, and translated it. Next, I began working on the background…

rose-009rose-010

Next, I rearranged the petals, by rotating and translating the layers. Then I made the background less soft and fluffy…

rose-011rose-012

Some final tweaks with the contrast of the two leafs, the stem and the single sepals layers and my rose was ready…

rose-013

That is all.

I has a crush on my kitty cat

28 Nov

Alright, now for some graphical stuff. I’m not really a good draftsman, but that shouldn’t stop me from drawing, should it? The problem is sometime file size. If you want to crush your files as small as they can be, you need a tool to do it for you.

Luckily on the Mac, there is a tool called PNGCrusher. It used to be PowerPC only (and therefore slow), but the author has released an Intel-only version, which is much faster. Let’s put it to the test.

kittycatkittycat_crush

On the left, is the original file, which is 27364 byte in file size, and on the right is the crushed file, 18851 bytes, which is around 70 percent of the original file size. Go PNGCrusher! And the file was converted almost instantaneously.

I has a crush on my kitty cat.

That is all.

I’m going to read Animal Farm and Ulysses

26 Nov

After reading Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll, I’ve lent two new English-language books.

  • Animal Farm by George Orwell
  • Ulysses by James Joyce

Animal Farm is a short story, only 127 pages, but Ulysses is a whopping 1069 pages. I should plan the reading, but I only have three weeks before the lending period expires. Three weeks for almost 1200 pages is 57 pages per day.

That is all.

Alphabet Soup

25 Nov

Ever wondered where our alphabet came from, and how it evolved into what we have today? I have. This is perhaps because I was taught classical Greek language in high school. This exposure to another method of writing down spoken language has prompted this curiosity about language in me. In this article I want to give a quick and dirty overview of the history of the alphabet. Nothing too fancy, though.

Using Wikipedia as my guide –but also by searching with Google– the story seems to go like this, in reverse chronological order:

Roman alphabet, the letters most Western civilizations use nowadays.
upper case: ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
lower case: abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz

(The Roman alphabet is sometimes called the Latin alphabet.)

The important thing to note is that it is possible to speak the letters you write, also known as spelling. This may seem trivial to most of us who are able to read this blog, but it is not. Many of the world languages are either iconic (symbols representing an idea), or leave part of the utterance to the reader (no vowels written down).

Still, it isn’t perfect as a notation of the spoken language, especially considering how certain combined vowels (diphthongs) are uttered in the English language, and how in some situations certain consonants turn into some kind of semi-vowels, like the letters r, w and y in e.g. bow, tar and boy. These change how the preceding vowel is pronounced. So it’s a bit like the diphthongs, where two consonants form a new combined consonant sound.

And, of course, there are diphthongs that sound the same, but are written differently, such as in homophones. This reminds me of this funny video, in which Larry explain homophones singing a polka (original file can be found here)

(Youtube video removed because of a third-party copyright claim)

Archaic Latin alphabet. The original (archaic) Latin alphabet didn’t have 26 characters, but only 21, and no lower case characters (nor space, punctuation, and all of that fancy stuff that enables us to read text without reciting it):

upper case: ABCDEFZHIKLMNOPQRSTVX

Because the Romans were so enthralled with Greek culture, they used a lot of Greek loanwords, and began adopting some of the Greek alphabetic characters. This gave rise to the Latin alphabet we know today.

Classical Latin alphabet, which has most of the Roman alphabet, except the letters J and W (I and J were basically the same, as where U and V, and W grew out of the ligature of VV). There weren’t any lower case characters.

upper case: ABCDEFGHIKLMNOPQRSTVXYZ

Greek alphabet, which is a kind of precursor to the Classical Latin alphabet. However, other alphabets are influenced by the Greek alphabet as well, such as Cyrillic and Gothic. The (more modern version of the) Greek alphabet has both upper and lower case characters. I hope that everyone can read it, because sometime Windows seems to have less than optimal support for foreign language fonts (and fonts in general).

Alpha Α α
Beta Β β
Gamma Γ γ
Delta Δ δ
Epsilon Ε ε
Zeta Ζ ζ
Eta Η η
Theta Θ θ
Iota Ι ι
Kappa Κ κ
Lambda Λ λ
Mu Μ μ
Nu Ν ν
Xi Ξ ξ
Omicron Ο ο
Pi Π π
Rho Ρ ρ
Sigma Σ σ ς
Tau Τ τ
Upsilon Υ υ
Phi Φ φ
Chi Χ χ
Psi Ψ ψ
Omega Ω ω

The Greek adopted their alphabet from the Phoenicians. The Greek letters are used in science nowadays, and, of course, in modern Greek. The lower case forms (minuscules) were not originally in the ancient Greek alphabet, but added later.

Of course, we can see striking similarities between Greek alphabet and our own alphabet. The letters A, B, E, Z, I, K, M, N, O, T, Y and X occur in both alphabets, though the lower case might be written somewhat differently. The Greek letters Δ, Λ, Π, Ρ and Σ are clearly the Roman letters D, L, P, R and S. The unfamiliar Greek letters are Η (long e-sound), Θ, Ξ, Φ, Ψ and Ω. Well, perhaps not totally unfamiliar. You may seen some of them already.

As I’m not a linguist, I will not go into the details of the alphabet, or how texts are written (depends on the particular Greek dialect).

Phoenician alphabet was the precursor of many alphabets, among which Ancient Greek and classical Greek. The letters are called after an word. Also, the letters were written on clay tablets, and therefore tend to be a bit more angular than roman letters written on parchment or paper.

Unfortunately, these archaic alphabets are not included in the standard font libraries of most operating systems, although they can be added. I found this page with a Phoenician font: Phoenician Alphabet, from which page a TrueType font (Eshmoon) can be downloaded (there is additional information about Phoenician on this website). For what it’s worth, you can also find an article on Wikipedia about the Phoenician alphabet.

This all means, I should probably not include the alphabet here, because most of you will not be able to display the characters without installing the Eshmoon character set. I will direct you to this excellent page on phoenicia.org, called Table of the Phoenician Alphabet.

If you study the page, you can clearly see for most letters, which object or animal each letter represents. The letters were not yet as stylized as in our Roman alphabet.

I hope that this crude introduction into alphabets has given you some idea where our alphabet came from and that it is just not an invention to write on paper and print books, but that it has a long history of revisions, additions and such. I’m sure we haven’t reached the end of it, not by a long shot. I’m certain new alphabets will come (and go).

That is all.

Jabberwocky

22 Nov

How strange the Jabberwocky poem is:

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
    Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
    And the mome raths outgrabe.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
    The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
    The frumious Bandersnatch!”

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
    Long time the manxome foe he sought—
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
    And stood awhile in thought.

And as in uffish thought he stood,
   The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
   And burbied as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
   The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
   He went galumphing back.

“And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
   Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callah!”
   He chortled in his joy.

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
    Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
    And the mome raths outgrabe.

I have no idea what it means, but I guess I’ll find out once I’ve read Through the Looking Glass”, by Lewis Carroll. Still some 140 pages to read. I hope I will enjoy every minute.

And oh, if you’re curious as well, but don’t want to read this excellent work of fiction, go and visit the Ultimate Jabberwocky Page.

This is all.